Born in Kingston, Jamaica and currently based in Ajax, Ontario, social entrepreneur Sanaaj Mirri is genuinely passionate about empowering youth through traditional African dance. She's the founder and director of the Afiwi Groove School, operating in the Durham Region. Founded in 2013, her non-profit's programs promote positive self-esteem, confidence, and an active lifestyle while educating and connecting participants to the African Diaspora's arts and culture.
Sanaaj crediSanaaj credits the performing arts to help her overcome childhood trauma and set her on the path to embark on a fulfilling self-discovery journey. “My introduction to my creativity was trying to create a world where I felt safe,” she shared. The process of turning her passion into a business also taught her many important lessons, as she discusses in the podcast episode below.
The COVID pandemic has greatly affected dance schools, among many other businesses. The Afiwi Groove School was no exception, as Sanaaj highlighted. But, as she's done before, when facing many obstacles in her life, she found a way to keep moving forward toward her purpose. She received funding from a Government of Canada Emergency Support Fund, in collaboration with the Canadian Red Cross and the United Way, created to boost community organizations during COVID-19.
The funding supports Sanaaj's free Roots and Revival virtual workshop series — keeping African dancing and drumming alive to engage black youth during the pandemic. Also included in this programming is the Roots & Revival: Groove Queen’s Edition, a partnership with Me to Moi Health. Curated by and for women this special “virtual groove” honours the power of sisterhood through experiential learning, sharing and healing over the course of seven weeks. Participants can join empowering conversations about resilience, the power of self-care, trauma awareness, and more.